• 11 •
– Anna’s POV –
Dakota, my older brother, used to always be so poetic. He was witty and over-averagely intelligent, like me. I always had someone there, someone who was stuck to my hip through thick and thin. And that was him.
Notice these words are past tense, and not present.
He left me when I was ten years old, knowing exactly what and who he was leaving me with. I’m not even sure why he did leave. He was treated like royalty in that house. He was never beaten, molested, or touched at all. He was praised for anything he said or did. And on top of that, Dakota had me, someone who loved him more than anything.
Nothing added up. Once he was gone and I knew it for sure, I had so many questions. Why did he go? Why didn’t he take me with him? It was always the “why’s” that killed me the most. I knew they’d never get answered unless I saw him again, which never did happen by the way.
Now, I really don’t care. Obviously he had his reasons for leaving me behind. That’s his business. We’re not even considered siblings anymore – at least I don’t consider us siblings anymore. So why does it matter? At least I got out of there, and at least I was given some self defense technique and skill.
Of course, if he had taken me with him, it is quite likely that none of my trauma would’ve occurred. I could’ve been normal. Happy. Living with a brother who can protect and love me.
Yet Dakota is just another living piece of proof as to why I trust no one. Another person who shattered me into little bits and pieces of myself. Different versions of myself that are cut off from the real world. It is rare that I expose my old self to society. Actually, it’s only happened twice.
Those times were yesterday, and a few years back when I had a relapse in a mental tantrum. Doctors pinned me down and gave me meds, telling me that this was my last warning before sending me back to the institution.
If they saw me against a liquor store in the shape I was last night…
I sigh and rid of those violating thoughts. I’m never going back to the institution, no matter how messed up I really am. That place is a psychotic prison. Sure, I’m jacked in the brain, but I am just too observant. I understand things too easily and overthink everything, leaving me with hundreds of vulnerable wounds sitting in a cabinet full of salt that could potentially rip over all over me. That’s why they held me at the institution. They wanted to research me. I wasn’t a person there that they wanted to fix; I was an experiment they wanted to see broken until I healed on my own.
They only had a certain amount of time before they had to legally release me, so they did what they could: stuck needles in my skin and looked into my brain. It didn’t take long for me to realize that me being brought in was just a trap to analyze a unique body and thought process. I immediately acted healthy again, starting acting like an average human being with a troubled past. I just shut out and acted like a stubborn teenage girl. It worked, and they had to lawfully discharge me after a year.
I suppress an annoyed groan from coming out of me that wanted to escape because of my mind going off the rails again. Don’t think about it.
I instead focus on Aiden’s arms that are currently encircling my body close to his. My back is pressed up against his chest, his slow and consistent breathing informing me that he had not yet awakened.
I felt calm and safe. These feelings aren’t normal for me. It makes me feel uncomfortable and guarded. I don’t want to be weak. I don’t want people to see that I’m caving into the one person I don’t absolutely want to cave into. Heck, I don’t even know this guy! I only arrived nine days, nine hours, and forty-three minutes ago to this city. I refuse to give in, especially so early.
As if to aid my thoughts, I try to escape from Aiden’s hold on me. This only causes my leg to throb and his grip to tighten, pulling me closer since we’d spaced out during our sleep of the night. I didn’t even notice I’d flipped around and-
My stomach feels as if a feather is tickling it from the inside, and I widen my eyes in shock.
I hadn’t had any nightmares. Not only that, but I hadn’t had any nightmares during a huge storm.
And I actually slept. Like for real. And during the wind, thunder, lightning, and rain- something I never, under no circumstance, sleep through.
I wiggle around so I’m facing Aiden. My hands find themselves pressed to his hard yet soft chest. His lashes gently touch right below his eye as soft breaths come from his slightly parted lips. When I actually manage to sleep, I look like a potato. How does he look like a god?
I almost gasp when he reaches up and cradles my back with one whole arm, using his hand to gently hold my head right below his chin. A warm feeling shoots through me, and I try my best to create a cold breeze inside, to no avail. He keeps the tingles and heat there.
Is he the reason I actually went to sleep? What other reason could there be? It can’t just be a coincidence that the one night I stay here, I actually catch some z’s. I mean, it could. It could be because of me not sleeping for years on end, and it’s finally caught up to me. But that’s highly unlikely. Even when my body does try to sleep, it awakens again due to the nightmares.
Aiden stirs, a sigh coming from his lips. I braced myself for the scent of morning breath, but pause when I smell nothing except for…bubblegum?
“I feel you watching me, Dimples.” A slow smirk spreads onto his lips, eyes still closed.
I roll my own. “So?”
Dimples? I don’t even smile.
Slowly, his eyelids peel back and he looks at me with them half-lidded. His hair is in a ruffled mess that is oddly attractive. “So, I know you’re trying to pick and pine through my head. You’re not very subtle.”
I shrug. “I’m usually not.” I don’t care what others think about me, or what I do, or how I do it.
He smiles a little. “I know.”
I stare at him for a moment. This isn’t what I expected from the school’s hot topic. He’s supposed to be brooding and quiet, the whole cringe-worthy badass showboater kinda guy. But he doesn’t seem any different than anyone else apart from his attractive aspects and his tattoo that swirls up from the bottom portion of his hand and all the way up to the base of his neck. He has friends – or, one friend that I know of – and he doesn’t speak like an arrogant jerk. He might be slightly cocky…or a lot, but he’s still normal. At least, that’s what I see from here. He may be different, and I just can’t see it underneath. In my case, that’s rare. I always see people for who they are. But I can’t tell with Aiden. I can’t tell if I understand him or not.
“How’s your leg?”
Aiden’s light smile gradually falls off of his face, a tired expression replacing it. He runs his palm over his face and through his hair before looking at me again.
“What happened, Anna?” he asks, almost annoyed. Like he’d been waiting for me to tell him on my own, without having him ask. But there’s no way I’d do that.
I knew he’d ask. I just don’t want it to be now. Or ever, really. However, I know the conversation has to come. I can’t just come into his home that he offered me sanctuary in and not give him some answers.
On top of letting me stay, he fed me, bathed me, comforted me, and cared for me. Like really cared. How could I not repay him? Besides, it’s not like I’m really giving anything away about myself by telling him the situation that happened.
I sigh, unconsciously tracing my fingers along his tattoo that is twirling up his arm. I stare at it, watching as he shifts a little and noticing goosebumps rise where I’m touching. He doesn’t move away though. I use my other hand to prop my head up.
“I…went for a walk,” I start, deciding to beat around the bush a little before diving headfirst into the thorns. “I just wanted to go outside for a little bit in the after-rain weather. I needed a break. Actually, I needed to breathe. I’d been…hiding out from the storm a few hours before.”
I glance at his face when I tell him about me “hiding from the storm.” By the hard look in his eyes and how his jaw tensed, I could tell he obviously understood what I meant by that. I meant I was crying, rocking back and forth, covering my ears, etc- all in the darkness of my closet.
I look away again and stare at the designs of the ink upon his skin. It calmed me while I explained.
“Anyway, I went out and was walking on the same sidewalk you found me on. And I was so interested in the pavement, apparently, that I ran into some drunk stranger.” Aiden’s hold tightens around me, the fabric of the shirt he’d given me ******* into his hand. He releases a stressed breath from his nose, lips set straight as he brings his chin to lay on top of my head. I’m surprised by his reaction. In the psychiatric institute, they only reacted uncomfortably and squirmed in their seats when I told them about my experiences with my father. Aiden’s different.
“He…he uh-” I stop and swallow once. “He took me into an alley and straddled me on the ground. I didn’t know what his plans were, and I sure as hell didn’t stick around to find out. I managed to fight back, but if he were sober, it might’ve been more difficult, and I could’ve came out a lot worse than with just a hurt knee and a bleeding forehead.”
I didn’t go into detail. And I didn’t because one, Aiden’s cobra-grip on me would only get tighter and more protective if I continued. That I don’t want him to stress about me. Two, I have a photographic memory. I remember every single little moment. Replaying out loud would only make things worse for me emotionally. I don’t want to become unhinged again.
“Do you know his name?” Aiden suddenly growls, keeping my head now tucked close to him as he didn’t release me. Like I’d die if he let go.
“No. But I’m fine. I promise. I know how to defend myself.”
“I know, but you’re not fine. He hurt you. He could’ve really hurt you.” Aiden pulls away from me a bit. “Why did you go without someone?”
“Because I basically live on a twenty-four hour surveillance watch in foster care,” I whisper. “I wanted to be alone.”
Aiden is quiet for a little bit, thinking to himself. Eventually he stops and glances behind my shoulder out the window. I look too. The sun shines, white puffy clouds floating in the sky. Dew drops coat the window in few numbers. It looks pretty and nice.
I look back at Aiden, who stares at me now. I raise a brow at him suspiciously.
He smirks, kissing my forehead (which actually leaves me open-mouthed). He seems unbothered and stands up, only in his underwear. I look away awkwardly. But then he bends down, covering his lower half with the bed as he looks at me with a shiny sliver of something unrecognizable in his eye.
“You’re not going home just yet.”
May not seem like it, but Aiden’s ******.